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SOUTH ASIA WEEKLY REPORT
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Vol. V Issue. 50
Bangladesh: Is political violence reviving instability?
Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee
14 December 2012

Analysis

Bangladesh witnessed the worst kind of political violence in the past few weeks following a series of protests called by the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). Concerns are being raised about the future stability of the country following the deepening of the cycle of political violence.

The BNP in late November this year had threatened to bring down the Government through street-protests and unveiled a programme of a series of protest movements. Since then, there have been street- protests in Dhaka and other parts of the country, causing hindrance to the daily life of the people as these protests often turn violent, protestors often resorting to vandalism and arson. There have also been incidences of clashes between BNP cadres and supporters of the ruling Awami League as the latter tries to resist these protests.

The BNP's anger arises out of the Government's decision to abolish the caretaker government system before general elections. The caretaker government system was introduced in 1996 following the 12th constitutional amendment to ensure impartial elections to the nation's Parliament. The BNP is adamant on its demand to restore the caretaker government system and has threatened to boycott the parliamentary election. The government has declared not to return to the caretaker government system as it believes that this system could be exploited to grab power undemocratically. The uncompromising attitude of the political parties has led to a political standstill, which is hampering the growth of democracy in the country and making the future of democracy uncertain.

A free and fair credible election is crucial for the strengthening of democracy in the country, especially when Bangladesh is facing threat from the rising tide of radicalism. Although the country's track-record in taming militancy has been significant, there have been efforts by some section of the society to revive this movement. Earlier this month five top leaders of banned Jamaatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB) were arrested in Dhaka, on charges of conspiring to create instability in the country. Besides, radical organisations like Hizbut Tahirir, believed to have links with Al-Qaida, is slowly gaining ground in the country, mainly among the youth, a trend important to watch as it likely to have bigger impact on the society which would disturb the liberal values of the society.

Ruling Awami League, however, feels that the main motivation for the BNP's agitation is to stop the trial of war criminals from the 1971 Independence war, as this affects its main ally JI. The Awami League Government instituted the International War Crime Trial in 2010 to carry out trials of against those who perpetuated various crimes against freedom-fighters during the 1971 war. Top JI leaders, including its ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami were arrested in 2010 on charges of war crimes.

The political parties are not able to understand the gravity of the situation. Dissatisfaction of the people regarding mainstream political parties is also growing which only strengthen the case for religious political parties. India, the regional power and the closest neighbour, is closely watching the developments and is also trying mend bridges with BNP. The US has called upon political parties for dialogue. The liberal political parties should understand the mood of the people and engage in discussion to preparing grounds for a credible multiparty election.

(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

Bhutan: UNSC vote loss exposes weak links

Sripathi Narayanan
Bhutan's foreign policy for much of its existence has been dictated by its southern neighbour -- the British India first and later by the Republic of India. Such a situation as this has not been a bone of contention between the two nations since their interests have been largely a mirror-reflection of the other. However, the lack of a robust Foreign Office has been a limiting factor for Bhutan on key issues/platforms. The current debacle, if one can call it so, would be the failure of the Himalayan Kingdom to secure the support of the international community for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

Even before the results of the UN election could was out, Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigme Thinley had hinted at the possibility of losing the poll to South Korea. Ironically, Bhutan secured only 20 votes for the Asian candidature, a number that is not even half of its international diplomatic footprint. What is important from the Indian perspective on this issue was not the fact of Bhutan losing the election but its inability make a dent on world affairs, let alone in securing a place in the global high table of nations. If elected, Bhutan would have taken the place of India, whose one-year term as a non-permanent member concludes with the calendar year, 2012.

The outcome of the UNSC bid though would not have any adverse fallout on Bhutan. However it has now acted as a wake-up call for Thimphu -- not only in expanding its acceptability in internal fora as a new necessity but also a prerequisite for any nation in the present-day world. This is so as the Himalayan Kingdom would have to have such resources in place for a host of issues including on matters of climate and environmental concerns and also on its pet project of measuring national growth through what it calls 'Gross National Happiness (GNH)', and not through the customary GDP yard-stick.

The failure of Bhutan at the UNSC vote could have some implications for New Delhi. First and foremost is the role of India. Did India play her cards well? And the second is on a touché subject of the influence that Indian enjoys in the corridors of power in Thimphu. Would the presence of Bhutan at the global high-table have served India well? Hoping that the Himalayan Kingdom shares the sentiments and approach of Delhi on matters of Indian concern, why was it that New Delhi failed to use its good office to ensure a favourable outcome for the Kingdom?

On this note, this vote was a litmus test for India and an event of measured consequence for Thimphu, per se. The election to the UNSC not only put to test Bhutan-India ties and the comfort-level between the two but also India's clout in the comity of nations. A policy decision of not mustering enough votes for Bhutan exposes lack of vision and appreciation of Bhutan and the world on the part of India. The poor performance of Bhutan is thus a wake-up call for India to reassess its position in the international stage.

Apart from this, for Thimphu, the UN vote has reiterated the need for a robust foreign policy and presence that goes beyond New Delhi, New York and Geneva, the latter two are nodal centres for the UN and its agencies. How will Thimphu manage this when it is sandwiched between the two Asian giants, India and China, thereby limiting its options between Delhi and Beijing? Either way, an over-active Kingdom will not be appreciated by either of the trans-Himalayan nations.

Country Reports

Bhutan
Indian militants are back again

Indian militant group Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) has re-established camps in Bhutan.

India and Bhutan enjoys a 699-km common border manned by the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) from the Indian side and by the Royal Bhutan Army on the Bhutan side. Most of the insurgent camps are located along the border.

Though Bhutan had to launch full-fledged military assault on the militant camps for a month from 15 December 2003 mainly on Indian demand and under multi-directional Indian supports, a large section of Bhutan politicians and elite did not like this indirect Indian involvement in their nation's military affairs. At the same time, despite 'Operation Flush Out' Indian intelligence could never confirm complete eradication of Indian militant activities on Bhutan's soil.

Source: economictimes.indiatimes.com, December 13, 2012

Closer monitoring of pollution

Bhutan and Nepal, from 2013, will have two permanent air monitoring observatories, set up by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) as part of a programme to reduce black carbon and other short-lived climate-forcing pollutants (SLCPs).

There has been increasing international attention on SLCPs - small particles and gases like black carbon, methane, and ozone - because of their warming effect on climate. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition, launched by the United Nations Environment Programme in 2011 to reduce SLCPs, has now grown to 33 member-countries.

Source: scidev.net, December 13, 2012

Farmers to visit Haryana

Bhutanese farmers would visit the Indo-Israel Centre of Excellence for vegetables in Karnal district of Haryana, to learn the technology to grow disease-free vegetables.

Impressed by the methods of farming used in the district, a 10-member delegation of Bhutan led by Secretary, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Dasho Sonam Tshering, would be visiting the Indian State.

Source: post.jagran.com, December 13, 2012

DNT submits application to the EC

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) has submitted its application for registration as a political party to the Election Commission of Bhutan on December 10.

According to a Press release from the party office, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa is a party founded on the ideology and aspirations in common with the people. It is definitely not based on one individual personality. It is formed in Nyamrup spirit, that politics like all national undertakings is a shared project.

All democratic institutions like the bureaucracy, judiciary, constitutional bodies, local governments, civil society and media houses must have power and capability to share this goal of democracy. All as one, we can and we will make a visible difference in the lives of our people.

Source: bhutanobserver.bt, December 10, 2012

India
Fund planned for overseas investments

India is all set to join an elite club of 30 nations that have sovereign wealth funds (SWF) by dipping into an estimated surplus of Rs 250,000 crore with cash-rich public sector companies in addition to suing a small chunk of foreign exchange reserves.

With only two months to go for the UPA-II Government's last full-fledged budget before the next General Election, details of the fund are still being stitched up. One option being considered is to create special instruments that public sector companies can invest in and use the funds raised from them to shop overseas.

Source: Hindustan Times, December 12, 2012

CCI, land bill get nod, 2G price cut

In its latest bid to push reforms and boost growth, the UPA Government on Thursday approved a series of key decisions including establishing a Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) to fast-track large infrastructure projects, the Land Acquisition Bill, a new urea investment policy to make it attractive to set up fertiliser plants and fixed a lower reserve price for 2G spectrum that had no takers in four zones.

Source: The Indian Express, December 14, 2012

BSP vote helps UPA to pass parliamentary test

Exactly a year after the Government was forced to put on hold its decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, the UPA Friday won a hugely symbolic and significant vote in the Rajya Sabha with the help of the BSP and the Samajwadi Party.

While the BSP, as announced, voted with the Government against the Opposition motion seeking withdrawal of the decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, the SP staged a walk-out. A similar motion was defeated in the Lok Sabha Wednesday.

Source: The Indian Express, December 8, 2012

US backs India's leadership role in Indian Ocean

The US very much supports India taking a leadership in the security issues in and around the Indian Ocean and was looking for opportunities to inter-operate with them, according to a top US commander.

US President Barack Obama has directed "all of the parts of our Government to seek a long-term security relationship, a partnership with India," Admiral Sameul J Locklear III, commander of US Pacific Command (PACOM) told reporters Friday.

"And that covers a lot of different areas, but in the military area we look for opportunities to inter-operate with each other," he said. "And we are headed in that direction."

Source: www.india.nydailynews.com, December 8, 2012

China willing to settle boundary issue

With National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and his counterpart Dai Bungguo putting on record the 18 points of bilateral agreement on the vexed border issue this week, Beijing has conveyed its readiness to India to move forward on settling the 3488-km line of actual control (LAC) and comprehensively engage New Delhi on all outstanding issues.

Government sources said Menon during his meetings with Li Keqiang, ranking member of the Politburo standing committee and tipped to succeed Wen Jaibao as Chinese Premier next March, and Wu Bangguo, chairman of National People's Congress and also a member of the Politburo standing committee, was told that the new leadership under party general secretary and current Vice-President, Xi Jinping, wanted to positively engage with India. While Menon was hosted by outgoing State Councillor Dai Bingguo in Beijing this week, he met Xi in November 2010.

Source: Hindustan Times, December 10, 2012

NTPC, Coal India to sign fuel supply pact

NTPC Limited will sign the newly-formulated fuel supply agreement (FSA) with State-run monopoly-miner Coal India within a month, its chairman Arup Roy Chaudhury has said.

The decision was taken after top executives of the two companies met on Monday to resolve differences over the new FSA. "All issues with respect to the FSA were discussed threadbare and we now feel there is a meeting ground. Many of the issues can be thrashed out between us and we will sign the FSA with Coal India within a month," Choudhury told journalists in the presence of Coal India chairman S Narsing Rao.

Source: www.economictimes.indiatimes.com, December 11, 2012

Coal-find in Mozambique

A wholly-owned subsidiary of state-run Coal India has hit coal seams during exploration in Mozambique, a senior company executive said.

Coal India Africana Limitada, which had drilled four boreholes in the south-east African nation, has hit coal in all four of them, making it the subsidiary's first success overseas, the executive said.

"This will now have to be analysed for the quality of the coal. Nevertheless, the exploration and production will be done in stages. The areas where we find coal will start production first," the executive said.

Source: www.economictimes.indiatimes.com, December 11, 2012

Industrial output jumps 8.4 pc

India's industrial production in October grew at its fastest pace in 16 months, signalling that the worst may be over for the economy, but also decreasing the chances of a central bank rate cut next week.

Industrial production grew 8.2 per cent from a year earlier in October, helped by a sharp increase in manufacturing sector output, compared with a 0.7% contraction in September. The reading far exceeded the median estimate of a 5.0% expansion in a poll of 17 analysts.

Bond prices fell after the strong data raised the odds that the Reserve Bank of India would keep rates steady for the fifth time at its policy review meeting on Dec. 18.

Source: www.onlinewsj.com, December 12, 2012

N-capable Agni-I test-fired

Sharpening its missile prowess, India has successfully test-fired its indigenously-developed nuclear capable Agni-I ballistic missile with a strike range of 700 km from a test range off Odisha coast.

The surface-to-surface missile was test-fired from a mobile launcher at about 0830 hrs from launch pad-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Wheeler Island, about 100 km from here, defence sources said.

Source: www.economictimes.indiatimes.com, December 12, 2012

Stimulus planned to boost trade

India's Government said Tuesday it will launch a stimulus package to boost trade after data showed exports in November fell from a year earlier-the seventh consecutive month of on-year decline.

The country's trade deficit narrowed to $19.3 billion in November from $21.0 billion in October, but it was up from the $15.8 billion reported a year earlier, and the government said it could fall short of its full-year export target.

Exports for the month fell 4.17 per cent from a year earlier to $22.3 billion, while imports rose 6.35 per cent to $41.5 billion.

Source: www.online.wsj.com, December 11, 2012

Govt agrees to probe Walmart lobbying

Under pressure from Opposition parties to come clean on the charges of US retail giant Walmart spending money in India to lobby for 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, the Government today (December 12) agreed to get the matter probed by a retired judge.

Source: The Tribune, December 13, 2012

Maldives
Calls to minimise conflicts, against street-protests

On a tour of the islands, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has called upon the people to minimise conflicts, to reduce the political colours around them, and to raise the national flag and national colours above all voices.

The President' call came even as a predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, referring to calls for street-protests by his successor Mohammed Nasheed, said in capital Male, that it was against the Constitution to call to overthrow the Government through such means, and that those who have done so have committed a crime. "So that's a very bad thing to say. From the moment they said those things, they became criminals. Action should be taken against people who say that they will do things against the law," he said.

In this context, President Gayoom referred to the change of power earlier this year, when President Nasheed resigned and his Vice-President Waheed filled the vacancy, as per constitutional provisions. "On 7 February, the Government wasn't changed through street protests. ... On that day, then-President (Mohamed Nasheed) resigned voluntarily. He wasn't arrested and tied up and taken somewhere and forced to do that," Gayoom said. "It would not be possible (to change the Government through street protests). How can they do that? They won't have the means or any such opportunity," Gayoom said with a laugh.

With speculation rife about his contesting for the nation's President in elections due by November next, Gayoom, talking to newsmen separately, announced his decision to contest for the presidency of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), founded by him, at its maiden national congress, now scheduled for January after a few postponements. He referred to the party youth and said, "The party has several posts, not just one. Posts exist for President, as well as Vice-President, Council Members, Committees. So, young people have several opportunities in this party."

When asked if he intends to contest in the presidential election, Gayoom did not give a direct answer, but said that the PPM's presidential ticket will be given to a person who contests in the party's presidential primary election. The reference obviously was to President Waheed, who is keen on contesting with PPM support but would not want to merge his QIP with the PPM.

Meanwhile, PPM's presidential hopeful Umar Naseer said that he and Gayoom's half-brother and parliamentary group leader Abdulla Yameen could be contesting the party primary for nominating the presidential candidate (as different from electing the party president). However, "I would definitely back Gayoom if he is to contest the elections. He is our 'ace of spades'. You cannot say that the ace of spades is not the ace of spades...If he says he won't contest the elections that would mean the ace of spades becoming two of diamonds, doesn't it?" Umar Naseer added.

Source: SunOnline, December 12-14, 2012

No-trust notice to Defence Minister

Parliament has given a 14-day notice to Defence Minister Col Mohamed Nazim, in relation to the no-confidence motion moved against him. The notice was sent in the midst of Nazim's high-profile China visit and after the Supreme Court had stayed secret-balloting for no-trust votes of the kind, effected through an amendment to Parliament's Rules of Procedure.

The no-confidence motion against Nazim was moved by the Opposition Malidivian Democratic Party (MDP), arguing that while also holding the post of Acting Minister of Transport, Defence Minister Nazim mixed up the basic responsibilities of the two Ministries. The MDP also accused him of using military influence to break up civil transactions of the Government outside of court. Nazim has denied these accusations.

On the larger issue of the Supreme Court stay of secret-balloting, Kulhudhuffushi-South MP Mohamed Nasheed has said the higher judiciary does not have the jurisdiction to pass this order, and also the one staying the removal of Civil Services Commission (CSC) President Mohamed Fahmy. "The Supreme Court does not have the authority to issue them. All the more, the court does not even have the authority to accept these two cases. Clause 88 (b) of the Constitution states that, unless otherwise specified in this Constitution, the validity of any proceedings in the People's Majlis shall not be questioned in any court of law," Nasheed wrote in his blog.

Lending his voice to the ongoing tussle between the Legislature and the Judiciary, controversial State Minister for Finance and Treasury, Abbas Adil Riza said that he was ready to sacrifice his own self to rectify the Peoples' Majlis. Abbas said that the Majlis has now been hijacked and enslaved by some people and all efforts needs to be concentrated on saving the Majlis from the clutches of these people.

Source: SunOnline, December 12-13, 2012, Miadhu, December 13, 2012

GMR probe report by Feb

Auditor-General Niyaz Ibrahim has said that they will be able to conclude investigations into the award of the management of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) to GMR, by February 2013. In an interview to Sun Online, the Auditor-General said that they were working very diligently to determine if the agreement was made according to the law and in a manner that would not result in losses for the Government. He also said that an expert from the UK will be assisting them on the case starting this month.

"We are working at a good pace. If there are no interruptions, we can finish the work by February. We would like to highlight though, that we're having difficulties obtaining information from certain sources," said the Auditor-General. He said that they have not yet received some documents from the Finance Ministry and some other sources, which poses challenges for the investigation.

The Government has criticised the Auditor-General and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for the delays in the GMR investigation.

Indian media reports meanwhile said that the Indian infrastructure major was considering a demand of $ 800-m in damages for the cancellation of the contract, before the Singapore-based arbitration council, when constituted.

Source: SunOnline, December 13-14, 2012

Myanmar
Protestors arrested

Authorities on December 14 arrested some persons over a spate of protests, demanding an apology for a police crackdown on a rally at a Chinese-backed copper mine last month.

Demonstrations have been held across the country in a display of public anger for injuries, including severe burns, sustained by dozens of monks in a pre-dawn raid on protest camps at the mine in November.

"Some activists were arrested for questioning," a police official told AFP, asking not to be named. He said they were picked up in Mandalay for protesting without permission. Activist group All Burma Federation of Student Unions, which took part in street action this week, said eight people were arrested on December 13, 2012.

Source: channelnewsasia.com, December 14, 2012

Nepal
Indian man sets afire Nepali girl

An Indian man set on fire a 16-year-old Nepali girl after she refused to elope with him. She succumbed to her burn injuries after two days of the incident which took place on December 9.

The 23-year-old man, Babu Khan, a resident of Baharaich in Uttar Pradesh, allegedly poured petrol over the girl in Bardiya district of western Nepal near the Indian border. The man, who was arrested after the incident, set the girl on fire after she refused to elope with him against the wish of her parents, the police said. The girl was admitted to the zonal hospital in a critical condition and she died later. Doctors said that she had suffered 90 per cent burns.

Khan, police claimed, has admitted that he had set the girl ablaze. Khan, who had long been courting the girl for marriage, worked as a mechanic in a local motorcycle garage. He was living near the girl's house.

Source: The Times of India, ekantipur.com, December 10-12, 2012

President extends deadline for 'unity' govt

With political parties failing to reach consensus on formation of a national unity government within deadline yet again, Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav extended the time limit further on December 13. Following a meeting with leaders of four major parties, Yadav gave them five more days and set December 17 as the fresh deadline for agreement on a prime minister through consensus.

Though there has been no progress on the ground, leaders of the four parties assured that a package agreement on all issues would be reached within the new deadline. This is the fourth deadline given by Yadav to parties to name a prime minister and form the unity government following failure of the ruling Maoist-Madhesi coalition to hold elections within November 22.

Source: The Hindustan Times, December 14, 2012

Govt tightens work permit for UAE

The Government has tightened the process to grant work permission to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after its latest study showed middlemen of using the UAE as a transit point to smuggle Nepali youths to dangerous workplaces in Gulf countries.

Officials said the new measure was taken as they found a significant number of job seekers had gone to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and other countries through the UAE, which are banned destinations for work by Nepal Government. Authorities have also warned that the possibility of Nepali workers being used by warring Syrian rebels to fight against the regime is getting high, given the easy transit-route from the UAE.

With the imposition of the new rule, the number of job-seekers leaving for the UAE dropped to 4,687 during the month between mid-October and mid-November from 4,846 recorded in earlier months.

Source: myrepublica.com, December 14, 2012

Pakistan
Liberal visa regime with India

Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik flew into New Delhi on Friday for a three-day visit where he sealed an agreement to liberalise tough visa restrictions for travellers. According to officials, Malik is also scheduled to meet Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde will for bilateral security-related talks.

The agreement comes just weeks before, after a five year hiatus, the two countries take part in a much anticipated bilateral cricket series hosted in India. Under the previous 38-year old travel pact, Indian and Pakistani business travellers could only visit up to three places in the bordering country, and had to report to a police station every day. Now, the number of cities to be visited has been raised to five, and business travellers will have the opportunity to receive multiple-entry visas, effectively exempting them from having to report daily to local authorities.

Addressing New Delhi's continued demands for the extradition of alleged terrorist extraordinaire Hafeez Syed, Malik also promised to arrest the Mumbai terror attack suspect should New Delhi provide credible evidence about his involvement.

Source: Reuters, December 14, 2012, The Express Tribune, December 15, 2012

Probe panel speaks of corruption

The Chief of Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau, Admiral (retd.) Fasih Bokhari, told the press this week that the country was losing up to Rs 5-7 billion to corruption daily. He had to immediately defend himself from accusations that his organization's allegations came at the wrong time and were part of a conspiracy to prolong a future interim Government, as Pakistan approaches elections in May this year.

"There are daily losses of five to seven billion rupees ($51.34 million to $71.88 million)" as a result of inefficiency, corruption and tax shortcomings"?. "The Bureau is determined to eradicate corruption from the society and will not spare anyone who is doing this heinous crime." the Anti-Corruption Watchdog's head told the press on Wednesday.

He added that corruption was no longer party-centric or incident-centric phenomenon but was now "a cross-board attitude". Punjab was singled out as the worst offender with 65 percent of corruption taking place in Pakistan's most populous State.

According to a survey by Transparency International, Pakistan is the 33rd most corrupt nation in the world, out of 176 countries. In the meantime, in an equally unflattering report by the Centre for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan, 70 percent of Pakistani lawmakers were exposed to not having filed any income tax in the last year.

Pakistan's inability to tax its populace due too poor enforcement and gaping tax loopholes continues to exacerbate the already dismal State's finances.

Source: Reuters, December 12, 2012, The Nation, December 14, 2012

Pak help for suicide-attack probe

Facilitated and hosted by Turkey, leaders of both Afghanistan and Pakistan met in Ankara to discuss last week's assassination attempt on Afghanistan's spy chief Asadullah Khalid. Both parties decided to jointly look into the failed suicide-attack, which threatened to upset an emerging cooperation between the two countries amidst the Afghan reconciliation process.

Stopping short of addressing directly Afghan President Hamid Karzai's statement last week that he knew "for a fact" that the attack came out of Pakistan and he wanted "clarification", the Heads of State presented a united front and exchanged pleasantries, with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari being quoted as saying that "if Afghanistan prospers, it is in Pakistan's interests". Karzai added: "We had very good conversations and we are not going to divulge details."

According to Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, "President Karzai told us that he made no specific remark which was specific to Pakistan ... because it would be obviously quite undeserved if any such remark was made."

Source: Reuters, December 12, 2012

Sri Lanka
Indian Ocean mistrust unfortunate: Gota

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa today said it was unfortunate that there was a degree of mistrust between the major powers in the Indian Ocean region that presently limited the degree to which effective and long lasting multilateral cooperation could be achieved.

"India is the largest naval power in the region, and has a vital role to play with regard to the future of the Indian Ocean. The United States has also an extremely significant naval presence in this strategic region," he said.

Secretary Rajapaksa made this statement at the third Galle Dialogue organized by the Sri Lanka Navy with the participation of 27 countries. This year's theme was 'Strategic Maritime Cooperation and Partnership to face the future with Confidence'. He said at the same time it was apparent that the influence of China in the region was also expanding rapidly. China's military modernization is increasing naval presence in blue waters and its expanding economic influence in countries in this region has been viewed with wariness by India and the US, he said.

"The increasing presence of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean, as well as its increasing involvement in counter piracy operations in this region, has also been viewed with some concern by the same powers," he said. "However, China has an industry intensive economy that requires oil imports amounting to more than 200 million tonnes every year. It is obvious that the safety and stability of the Indian Ocean is critical for China's energy security and its increasing interest and increasing naval presence in this region is quite understandable," the Defence Secretary said.

He said the assistance China had given to many countries for the development of deep water ports in this region had been an even more contentious issue but from the Chinese perspective its economy expands through its rapid development however the presence of Chinese funded ports in critical positions throughout this ocean region could be perceived by India as an attempt to encircle it from the south. "It is easy to understand this sensitivity," Mr. Rajapaksa said.

"I wish to clarify that the Chinese investment in the Hambantota port is a purely economic one. On average, more than three hundred ships cross the Indian Ocean approximately ten nautical miles south of Sri Lanka every day. The economic potential this presented was identified long ago," he noted.

Rajapaksa also said Sri Lanka welcomed any assistance from anybody willing to give it without harsh conditions being attached and it should not be misunderstood as a form of alignment with any one country.

"The energy security of many nations also depends on ships that transport fuel through this ocean for their power requirements. Indian Ocean faces a number of threats such as piracy, terrorism, human smuggling, drug trafficking and illegal waste disposal which are serious threats to the security, stability and sustainability of the Indian Ocean region," he said.

He said that the Galle Dialogue would be instrumental in fostering improved multilateral cooperation between the nations with an interest in this region.

Source: Daily Mirror Online, December 13, 2012

No power to stop Shavendera: Ki-moon

On the same day the UN of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said its review of its actions and inactions in Sri Lanka will be finished in the second quarter of 2013, it also claimed that it had no power over, and could not stop, Lt-Gen Shavendra Silva of the Sri Lanka Army, depicted in Ban's report on Sri Lanka as engaged in war crimes, from "inspecting" UN peace-keepers in Lebanon.

By the logic of the UN's answer, even indicted war criminals could play such an inspecting role in UN peace-keeping missions. In fact, while in the UN Security Council Thursday morning delegations denounced Ahmed Harum of Sudan, UN peace-keeping has at least twice given him free flights in UN helicopters, including into the killing zone of Abyei, to throw gas on the fire.

The head of UN peace-keeping Herve Ladsous has refused to answer Press questions about the UN's role in Abyei, about lessons learned from the UN's introduction of cholera to Haiti and Ban's supposed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.

With regard to Shavendra Silva, even when several South Asian Permanent Representatives came out against his service on Ban's Senior Advisory Group on peace-keeping operations, Ban told Inner City Press he could do nothing, it was up to member-States to do so.

Silva was allowed to appear in the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium to screen a Government film denying war crimes. Press criticism of how and why that screening happened led to anti-Press moves that continue to this way -- but which are now being fought.

Source: Inner City Press/Daily Mirror Online, December 13, 2012

Expert panel only after PSC process

The appointment of an expert panel to evaluate the findings in the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) which probed Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake would not clash with the on-going parliamentary process, President Mahinda Rajapaksa told newspaper Editors at Temple Trees. He said though there was no constitutional requirement to assess the PSC findings, he had thought it fit to do so. That was not something new, he said, noting that he did so as regards other crucial issues as well. Claiming that he had not seen the report, he said he was waiting for a copy from Parliament.

President Rajapaksa said all countries had constitutional mechanisms in place to impeach errant judges and recently the Chief Justice of the Philippines had been removed for offences which included the non-declaration of assets. Asked to comment on the Chief Justice's claim that the proper process had not been followed in probing charges against her, the President said Parliament had adopted the methods that had been employed previously in dealing with other Chief Justices.

When it was pointed out that the Chief Justice and her lawyers wanted the Government to adopt the process proposed in the Draft Constitution of 2000, the President said it was not practicable to change the Constitution to impeach judges. He asked whether a person summoned before a court of law could demand that the Constitution be amended for him to be tried. The existing constitutional provisions had been followed in removing judges and in trying to impeach Chief Justices Neville Samarakoon and Sarath N. Silva.

The call for impeaching Chief Justice Bandaranayake had first come from the Opposition, President Rajapaksa said, recalling that it was UNP MPs Tissa Attanayake, Harsha de Silva, Dayasiri Jayasekera and DNA MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake who had called for her removal. The UNP was now protesting against what it had wanted the Government to do, he added.

Asked how he would respond to the UNP's call for a committee of Commonwealth judges to probe charges against Chief Justice Bandaranayake, the President said the UNP should have done so when it tried Chiefr Jusrtice Samarakoon and sought to impeach Chierf Justice Sarath N Silva. He said UNP MP Sajith Premadasa should read how his late father Ranasinghe Premadasa as the Prime Minister in the Government of President J R Jayewardene had defended the PSC that tried Chief Justice Samarakoon. "It is a pity that the son does not know what his father did," said the President.

Source: The Island, December 13, 2012

Russian help for n-knowhow

Sri Lanka and the Russian Federation have agreed to broaden and strengthen bilateral ties and cooperation to develop the Sri Lankan nuclear technology sector.

The two sides agreed to increase ties more than ever before, during a meeting between the Sri Lankan Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka and the Russian ambassador to Sri Lanka Alexander A. Karchawa recently.

As requested by the Minister Ranawaka, the Russian Government would inform about the assistance to develop Lanka's nuclear technology sector within two months, Karachawa said. Meanwhile at a special discussion held with the Iranian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Dr. M. N. Hassani Pour, Minister Ranawaka said that at present Sri Lanka has halted electrification of 1000 villages funded by Iran due to the crippling US sanctions imposed on that country. Ranawaka explained that the US had violated the human rights of Sri Lankan citizens by imposing those sanctions.

Sri Lanka would further strengthen the ties with Iranian Government for the development of the power and energy sector, Ranawaka added. The Iranian Ambassador said that Iran would take action to provide further assistance and make investments for the development of Sri Lanka's energy sector.

Source: The Island, December 13, 2012

Afghanistan
Taliban inclusion in future govt

An initiative known as the "Peace Process Roadmap to 2015" is being pursued as part of the effort to reach a settlement with the Taliban. The proposal includes accommodating Taliban leaders in the Afghan government and allowing them to form provincial governments in the areas under their control.

This new initiative will provide an enhanced role for Pakistan in the peace process at the expense of the US. However, a US official denied this suggestion saying that the US would continue to remain a part of the core group, which is attempting to reach a settlement with the insurgents.

However, the Afghan Taliban, which has agreed to attend an international conference on Afghanistan in Paris, claimed that they would not negotiate with the Afghan government or the High Peace Council.

Source: Dawn, December 9, 2012; The Express Tribune, December 10, 2012

Pakistan blamed for attack

Afghan President Hamid Karzai claimed that the attack on his intelligence chief, Asadullah Khalid was planned in Pakistan. Karzai stopped short of accusing Pakistan's intelligence agency of planning the attack, but he described it as a "very sophisticated and complicated act by a professional intelligence service" and said his government would be "seeking a lot of clarifications from Pakistan" about the incident.

The Pakistan Foreign Office rejected this claim, and instead asked Afghanistan to investigate its own security failures and to provide evidence to Pakistan before levelling charges. However, during the trilateral summit held in Ankara, both Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to jointly investigate the attack.

Source: December 12, 2012; The Washington Post, December 8, 2012; Tolo News, December 9, 2012

Iran shuts down consulate

Iran has temporarily shut down its consulate in Heart. The decision was a reaction to their consulate being attacked by Afghan protestors. Teheran called upon Afghanistan to meet its obligation of ensuring the security of Iran's diplomatic mission in the country.

The demonstration against Iran began after Teheran's refusal to hand over the bodies of 13 Afghan immigrants executed in Iran about three months ago. Protesters shouted slogans against Iran and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and said they would "support the US if it invades Iran".

Source: Khaama Press, December 9-11, 2012

Tri-nation trade pact

During the trilateral summit of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey held in Ankara recently, the three countries signed a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote and facilitate trade and economic cooperation among the three countries.

The MoU provides for the establishment of the "Trilateral Trade Council", which will provide a useful platform to discuss advancement of regional, bilateral and trilateral cooperation besides sharing practices on the issues of commercial and economic relations, trade -policy matters and trade facilitation among the three countries. The three governments have also agreed to provide the necessary facilities to the businessmen of the three countries to increase trade and to resolve the issues that may emerge in this regard.

Source: Tolo News, December 13, 2012

Bangladesh
ICT chairman resigns

Mohamamed Nizamul Haq, chairman of International War Crime Tribunal (ICT), resigned following criticism of his conduct. Haq cited personal reason for his resignation. Law Minister Shafiq Ahmed although informed about receiving Haq's resignation but avoided sharing any further information. However, country's media claimed that the resignation came due to criticism of Haq's Skype and e-mail conversations with a Belgium-based Bangladeshi lawyer about the working of the ICT.

The ICT is trying 10 Opposition politicians on charges of arson, rape and other atrocities committed during Bangladesh's 1971 War of independence from Pakistan. Conversations came to light in an article published in the Economist magazine.

Source: The Independent, December 12, 2012; abcnews.go.com, December 11, 2012

Exploration bids floated

State-owned Petrobangla has invited offers from international oil companies, to explore hydrocarbon in the Bay of Bengal. The project is called 'Bangladesh Offshore Bidding Round-2012'. Government is planning to award bids in June or July, 2013.

Petrobangla chairman Prof. Hossain Monsur informed that the government has only invited bids for blocks which are dispute-free. Petrobangla will sell and receive bid documents for 12 offshore blocks in the next three months or 90 official days, starting from December 17 till March 18, 2013," Petrobangla director (PSC) Muhammed Imaduddin claimed.

Source: The Independent, December 10, 2012

Contributors:

Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Pakistan: Matthias Vollhardt;